This was first published on KSl.COM
My wife has a very annoying thing she does all the time. She uses your name (Coach Kim) tons of times in any conversation … not just with me, but everyone. It feels to me and our children that she wants and needs to recommend and correct us all, and it really pushes everyone's buttons. It’s great that she likes your advice column and is learning things, but it’s making life at home worse, not better. What can we do?
Her intentions are good, but trying to fix, advise or help other people when they haven’t asked for the help is insulting. Unfortunately, many people who study personal development find it easier to see the bad behavior in other people than in themselves. Looking in the mirror is rough on your self-worth, while fixing other people makes you feel wise and important. The problem is, though, it feels good; it doesn’t create healthy relationships and can push people away from you.
I am going to give you some advice on how to handle it when someone tries to fix you. Then I’m going to give some suggestions if you are the person who wants to share advice with others, so you can do it without insulting them.
When someone tries to fix you with unsolicited advice:
First, recognize some people who try to "fix" you can be projecting their own issues on you. There is a universal spiritual law of projection that states: "You spot it, you got it." This means we tend to see the very issues we need to work on in other people. So, we have to understand that a lot of the criticism we get from other people can be more about them than it is about us.
I do not recommend pointing this out to them, though, unless you want to create serious conflict, because the thing with projection is they can’t see it. If they could see it, they wouldn’t do it. Instead, just say, "I can understand why you might see it that way."
Then, ask a permission question like, "Would it be OK if I spoke my truth about this advice?" Never share your opinions with anyone unless you respect and honor them enough to ask if they are willing to listen to it first. If they say no, you must respect that.
If they say yes, explain that you appreciate their desire to help you, but unsolicited advice really feels like an insult to you. Ask if they would be willing to ask permission and see if you are open to some advice from Coach Kim before they give it. Ask if they would be willing to do that for you moving forward. If they can do this, it would make you feel respected, honored and validated.
Always ask them to change their behavior next time or in the future. Don’t focus on their past behavior, because they can’t change the past, so it will only make them defensive. Ask if next time they have something Coach Kim said that they really want to share, would they be willing to ask if you are interested first. That would mean a lot to you if they would.
If it continues to happen, don’t take it personally. It’s not about you. Understand that your wife might have fears of failure and loss that drive her behavior. Some people need to advise others to feel safe in the world or feel validated and important. Their need to do this has nothing to do with you. Any of us can be prone to do this when we feel insecure. Let her know you get this and think she is an amazing person who is wise and valuable right now.
When you have some advice you really want to share to help another person:
As I mentioned above: always, always ask permission before you make a suggestion, give advice, tell your story or correct another human being. This is the most important thing you must learn from this article.
If you speak without asking permission, it is insulting and dishonors the other person. Before you say anything (especially before sharing things you have learned from Coach Kim) ask the other person if they might be open to let you share something you learned that has helped you. If they say no, they would rather not hear any more Coach Kim advice, you must honor this and say: “I respect that, no problem.”
You may be someone who gives advice almost subconsciously though, and you might start giving advice before you consciously realize you are doing it. If this is the case, you are going to have to learn to be really mindful and aware. You must watch yourself for this behavior and apologize if you ever find yourself giving unsolicited advice.
It is hard not to share when you find something very valuable, but most people are resistant to learning from information that is pushed on them. They won’t want to read an article if they feel you are trying to fix them. If you really want to have influence and help others, make sure you first validate and praise who they are right now. Make them feel safe, honored and valued.
Then, ask permission to share something that helped you, and if they are open, explain what you learned and how you used it to fix yourself. Don’t assume it will be right for them. Just share your experience and leave it there. If they are interested, let them choose to read it. People are more open to things they choose for themselves.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.